Day 20      Luke 2:1-40 ... God's Disguise

Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible, the first words he says are, "Don't be afraid!" The angel Gabriel began his announcements to Zechariah and Mary that way, as did most angels in the Old Testament. Little wonder. When the supernatural made contact with planet earth, it usually left the human observers flat on their faces, in catatonic fear.

But Luke tells of God making an appearance on earth in a form that would not frighten. In Jesus, born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough, God found at last a mode of approach that we need not fear. What could be less scary than a newborn baby with jerky limbs and eyes that do not quite focus? Something brand-new was underway. Imagine becoming a baby again: giving up language and muscle coordination, and the ability to eat solid food and control your bladder. That gives just a hint of the "emptying" that God went through.

According to the Bible, Jesus was both God and man. As God, he could work miracles, forgive sins, conquer death, and predict the future. Jesus did all that, provoking awe in the people around him. But for Jews accustomed to images of God as a bright cloud or pillar of fire, Jesus also caused much confusion. How could a baby in Bethlehem, a carpenter's son, a man from Nazareth, be the Messiah from God? Jesus' skin got in the way.

Puzzled skeptics would stalk Jesus throughout his ministry. But this chapter shows that God confirmed Jesus' Identity from his earliest days. A group of shepherds in a field had no doubt - they heard the message of good news straight from a choir of angels. And an old prophet and prophetess recognized him also. Even the skeptical teachers in the temple had to scratch their heads in amazement.

Why did God empty himself and take on human form? The Bible gives many reasons, some densely theological and some quite practical. The scene of Jesus as an adolescent lecturing rabbis in the temple (2:41-5:2) gives one clue. For the first time, ordinary people could hold a conversation, a debate, with God in visible form. Jesus could talk to anyone - his parents, a rabbi, a poor widow - without first having to announce "Don't be afraid!" In Jesus, God came close.

Point to Ponder: The scene of Jesus in the temple as a boy reveals a communication gap between Jesus and his parents. What other problems do you think he faced by being both God and man?